Monday, January 16, 2017

Alternative Anthem

Know how it’s fun to take a song and write alternative lyrics? Usually it is for humorous purpose, and this seems to be something school children arrive at as an activity even without being prompted. I know my friends and I used to do it, and as I’ve met people from other walks of life, I find we aren’t the only people to have done this.

But did you KNOW this used to really be a THING? Like in the 19th century people would write them on broad sheets and distribute them. And then sometimes they would make it to newspapers and other publications. Often the purpose of these was protest, so yesterday, watching the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the University where I work, I had the opportunity to head this one performed.

Written by EA Atlee in 1844 and published in two Abolitionist Papers

1. Oh, say do you hear, at the dawn’s early light,
The shrieks of those bondmen, whose blood is now streaming
From the merciless lash, while our banner in sight
With its stars, mocking freedom, is fitfully gleaming?
Do you see the backs bare? Do you mark every score
Of the whip of the driver trace channels of gore?
And say, doth our star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

2. On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where Afric’s race in false safety reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it heedlessly sweeps, half conceals, half discloses?
’Tis a slave ship that’s seen, by the morning’s first beam,
And its tarnished reflection pollutes now the stream:
’Tis our star-spangled banner! Oh! When shall it wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

3. And where is the band, who so valiantly bore
The havoc of war, and the battle’s confusion,
For Liberty’s sweets? We shall know them no more:
Their fame is eclispsed by foul Slavery’s pollution.
No refuge is found on our unhallowed ground,
For the wretched in Slavery’s manacles bound;
While our star-spangled banner in vain boasts to wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

4. Shall we ne’er hail the day when as freemen shall stand
The millions who groan under matchless oppression?
Shall Liberty’s shouts, in our heaven-rescued land,
Ne’er be shared by the slave in our blood-guilty nation?
Oh, let us be just, ere in God we dare trust;
Else the day will o’er take us when perish we must;
And our star-spangled banner at half mast shall wave
O’er the death-bed of Freedom—the home of the slave.

I felt like that was an appropriate historical reminder for MLK Day, and also maybe a suggestion… we are mostly writers here. And these alternative lyric movements seem like a nice way to make our point.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Interview with Christy (aka: Cecelia Earl) on the release of When Ash Rains Down

It's fun to have a friend I've known for a couple years have a first book release, and in spite of the unfamiliar name on the cover, this book is by none other than our friend Christy from Erica and Christy, writing under a pen name (my guess is because teaching is one of those professions where it is best to keep fiction from real life persona). I think it's more fun to do these book release posts as interviews, so Christy was gracious enough to share an ARC of her book with me.

Let me just give you a brief teaser first:

Enter a world where angels and demons battle for souls while hidden from human sight...

Being crowned homecoming queen and enduring a week at the center of her classmates' attention is eighteen-year-old Julia White's worst nightmare--even with Cole, her long-time crush, as her date. But when Julia is attacked by a green-blooded demon that vanishes in a plume of smoke, she comes face to face with what real nightmares look like--in the flesh, and all of the homecoming stuff hardly matters anymore.

As a frightening wave of crime infiltrates her small Wisconsin town, Julia tries to avoid Nicholas, a brooding, infuriating relative of Cole's, who insists she's the reason behind the corruption. He claims the culprits are demons who are after powers that only she--a human-angel hybrid--possesses. It's unbelievable, of course, until he takes her to a hidden battlefield where warrior angels train to fight soul-siphoning demons--and her own angelic wings unfold.

When angels and demons draw battle lines, endangering everyone in their way, Julia has to find a way to protect them all, including herself. Because as it turns out, she's the devil's most powerful weapon against the angels, and he'll stop at nothing to claim her.

The final battle between Heaven and Hell has begun.

*cue spooky music*

And now without further ado... to the interview...

So I want to start a little with the theme of angels and demons. When did you first become interested in them as a paranormal phenomenon?

Ohmygosh…I racked my brain trying to come up with a better answer than…I can’t remember! I wrote When Ash Rains Down (it had a different title back then) in 2012. Or 2013. No! I just spent half an hour looking for when I first wrote it…the summer of 2014!! Anyways, I can only think that I must’ve drawn the “write what you want to read” inspiration card and felt compelled to go with an angel/demon muse coming from a reading binge, probably the Unearthly series, Hush Hush trilogy, Mortal Instrument series, and Infernal Devices series.

I DO remember that it all began because I’d wanted to write a novella to experiment with writing a book with plot and more fast-paced action than I was used to writing with my more lyrical, character-driven, plot-less contemporary realistic manuscripts.

And do you envision all angels and demons are “born” or can other people become one or the other? Do you distinguish between fallen angels and demons?

I don’t believe angels/demons are born, nor can anyone become one. I tried to remain true to my Catholic Christian faith in as many aspects surrounding angels as I could (aside from the completely imaginative fantastical main part of the novel—the hybrid human-angel characters who are born, of course). I believe angels were created at the time of creation and that demons came into existence when the devil challenged God, and lost, taking 1/3 of the angels with him when he left Heaven. I believe fallen angels are demons, same thing. In the book, however, there are angels believed to be fallen that are, in fact…maybe demonic, or maybe…not fully.

Have you found it at all tricky to determine how much religion to come into your stories? Is there a “too much” or “not enough” line for you or have you felt it sort of fell into place organically?

This was probably one of the most difficult aspects of writing this book. I struggled, deliberated, researched, prayed about, discussed, revised, rewrote, and ultimately crossed my fingers and hoped for the best about how to remain authentic and true to my faith without being overbearing or preachy.

This final, published version is quite different from earlier drafts that had a LOT more explicit beliefs included in conversations between Julia and Nicholas (the main character and her angel warrior trainer). When trying to come up with the purpose for her to decide to do as he asked-- to fight demons. Initially my reasons were much more faith-based, without including my faith intentionally. Basing the stakes on my faith, where angels, demons, and souls were concerned, was just the natural way my thought process worked.

It wasn’t until after a (paid) beta reader, hired through my editing company, pointed out that I was really polarizing my readers, that I went back and forth, discussing my story with other Christian and non-believing writers, and finally decided on the amount that exists today. My hope is that other believers see my faith included, but that non-believers, or believers in other religions, read it seeing the story and characters without its faith--or lack-thereof--arising in their thoughts to the extent that they don’t enjoy the book.

Though, I must say, when my dad asked if I write with any purpose, meaning, do I write to convey a faith-based message, I told him it wouldn’t hurt for readers to contemplate whether or not their souls live on since their physical lives are only temporary, whether or not they have angels protecting, and demons preying upon, their souls.

Mostly, though, I wanted to convey a theme of friendship, trust, and forgiveness. And I wanted to tell a story that people got a little lost in, an escape from real life, with characters that readers enjoyed getting to know and want to spend even more time with in the future.

Are any of your characters or any character characteristics based in anyone you know? Or any characters who inspire you?

There was a boy in my high school, years and years and years ago, that loosely inspired Mitch, though Mitch’s character ended up becoming someone quite different. Over the summer, when I was revising the novel, my husband’s uncle showed us the 1953 movie Invaders from Mars while camping, and so he inspired Mitch’s obsession with classic sci-fi.

Other than that, there are probably characteristics of myself in Julia, and Cole and Nicholas are polar opposites, one an extreme of Julia’s personality, the other her flip side. Her character arc will determine who she ends up most like in the end. So…I guess Julia inspired their personalities.

I find Mr. Alex to be inspiring and intriguing. And the peaceful man. I look forward to finding out more about them in future books… wink.

And is your setting a real one? Or is it an “anytown” near where you live? Are there features of the town and setting you felt were critical to the story?

It is an “anytown” in Wisconsin, not based off of any real place that I’ve lived or visited, but it’s most definitely real in my mind after “spending so much time there”. The size of the town, small-ish, is vital to my main character’s school setting as it influences the environment in which she coexists with her peers, as is the small-town diner setting and its necessary neighboring shops and customers, important to her mom, though nameless to Julia. The main street and shops are very like “downtowns” I’ve visited, and even like the ones near where I live, in smaller towns in Wisconsin.

Do you have a specific arch and set number of books planned for your series, or are you setting up a world with broader potential for an undefined number of installations? Want to share a little about your planned pacing for publishing and what we will see from you next?

I do! When Ash Rains Down is the first in a planned trilogy. When Smoke Rains Down’s publication is planned for Spring 2017, and When Fire Rains Down will then be published in Summer 2017. I’m planning at least one series novelette, but probably more. The one I’m ready to write now would fall into the order between books one and two and would be told from the perspective of a female angel you’ve not met, Rach’s Guardian. I’m also planning for a prequel trilogy from the point of view of Julia’s mother, Melissa, about the years when she was a teenager and met her own Guardian Angel, Julia’s dad.

Awesome!  It's great to hear about your book and your process. Thank you!

Thank you so much for having me here today, for taking the time to read my novel, and for preparing these questions for me. These were fun to consider and respond to. And I’m excited to share these tidbits of my writing process and details of my novel(s) with you all. Thanks for visiting, blog readers!

Author Bio

Cecelia Earl graduated with a degree in education and has been teaching ever since. She’s a wife, a mom of three boys, and an owner of a magical laundry pile that never stops growing. She lives near enough to Green Bay, WI that her refrigerator is always stocked with cheese, and the first colors her children learned were green and gold. She’s a teacher by day, a mom always, and a writer in her sleep, but that’s okay because being an author is a dream come true. She writes angel books for young and youngish adults. If you feel young, she writes for you—whether or not you feel particularly angelic.

And you can find Christy/Cecelia and her book at:

Author Facebook Page
Newsletter (for giveaways, updates, exclusive content, etc)

Buy Links:
Amazon Paperback $8.99

Amazon e-book 99 cents/free with KindleUnlimited

Createspace (Paperback) $8.99

So let all your Angel and Demon lover friends know, and go like Cecelia on all her social media. Oh... and buy the book!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rules Schmules

Hallo fine peoples! And welcome to the first 2017 meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

For this month's meeting the question is:

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

But I'm not going to answer the question. At least not exactly. Because I will tell you this. For a while, rules killed my voice. You see... I'm not really a rules girl.

That said, a number of rules, like in life, are rules for a reason, and if you break them (like don't hit people) you are likely to get smacked upside the head for it. These writing rules, once learned, can just seem like common sense:

Information dumps pull the reader out of the story.
Adverbs are often a lazy substitution for a better verb.
Active language is more engaging.

But for every rule, there are also appropriate times to break them. We can all think of great books that do just that.

So as it is the new year, and the world is trying to impose moderation... think of rules as moderation and remember that even moderation should be done in moderation.

You heard me. Moderation in moderation. Rules followed in moderation.

But to walk the line, you do indeed need to KNOW the rules. And have your valid reason ready when you break them, otherwise an editor is going to argue with you. (and nine times out of ten these arguments are not worth having—you will just end up changing it anyway. Though I have argued and convinced editors on one or two points on every book I've worked with an editor on—but one or two points out of dozens of edits is a small number). Still, be true to your own voice and your narrative voice and most voices do not hold vises on the rules (see what I did there?)
I thought this was rather a beautiful way to put this

AH! But there are a couple writing rules I hate. And those are the rules that try to shame us into a certain PROCESS. Everybody is different. Anybody who claims to know the rules for getting a story written is full of himself. Some outline. Some pants. Some write daily. Some in bursts. (though REGULARLY is more productive). Some edit as they go. Some wait to the end. On process it really is Rules Schmules.

So there.

Any rules you hate?

Now go see what other insecure folks have to say about it!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Writing Plan – Buwahahahahahahaha!

So I started off with my big goals:

Keeping up hope...

TWO First drafts this year. Scheduled for June and November as usual.

TWO previously started books FINISHED (one of my intended is 1/3 done, the other 2/3 done, so pretty much this amounts to a third book).

TWO Edits of previously written books.

And then this is the tricky one: SELL TWO BOOKS. I have 4 that I think are done enough, and TWO agents are currently reading the full of Medium Wrong, so if I get representation for THAT, I will let said agent guide on which OTHER book to push out. If neither wants it, I will continue to shop it, as the agent nibbles of 2 for 2 seems like I have my package in order. I even had 4 more on my list but they wanted synopses so I didn't send, but I had to send a synopsis with one of the fulls so now it is written so those are just emails.

My tactics

Dedicate one hour daily to writing (more on those WriMo months, but I've gotten out of the habit) – blogging doesn't count.

Rotate editing back into my commute time (I really could ALWAYS be editing but then I would be reading much less, so I am going to alternate.)

Get back to PLANNING. No pants for me. I started three books in 2016 that petered out because my plan was too squirrelly.

If I hit writing blocks, other than WriMos, allow short stories to rotate through.


January: I will be PLOTTING. Working at both the stories I intend to finish this year and getting a feel for which is more developed. I will also continue querying Medium Wrong if I don't hear from either of the agents that have it in the first few weeks. And I will finish the short stories I started to get back in the practice of actually writing daily.

February: I will edit Kahlotus Disposal Site so I have a #2 ready to go.

March: I will finish the book chosen from my January efforts.

April: I will assess Undoing, another epic—this one new adult, that is meant to be a trilogy, each in three acts and has the first two acts written, but I already know serious revisions, as it may end up rather timely in the current political climate. Also work on plotting my BuNo book.

May: Edit book #2. Which one depends how things go.

June: BuNoWriMo. Which book idea depends a bit how things go between now and then...

July and August: Endangered and Undoing are both epic, enormous projects.... Imma commit to working on one of these in July and August while I also assess and plan the rest of the year.

November: Only other pre-commitment at this point is that I write a book for NaNoWrimo.

Promotion Plan

I have some abandoned (or nearly) spots that I need to get back to. I also want to shoot for blogging twice a week—helpful or at least relevant in the first half, entertaining or at least silly in the second. If I have author interviews I will do those Wednesdays, except first Wednesday which is Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Fitness Plan

The Problem: I am at least 100 pounds overweight (gads that sounds scary) and everything I've tried in the last decade has not worked.

The OTHER Problem: I need to work on my core and flexibility.

So here is the plan:

Eating: I am on my own 5 nights a week now. I am working out a 2 week rotation for a meal plan that will use weight watcher points, but also the Type A diet (only approved foods for Type As). If I am eating the same things and I have pre-calculated, then it should be easier. I will plan in a few slurges... number and size dependent on the calculations I make for my plan. (I've done an initial, but I need to fine tune it with the exact points and Type A list)

Sleep: Get enough of it. 7 hours is hard during the week, but there is evidence it helps metabolism efficiency.

Cardio: Continue my walking. Add in 2 days a week of dance (I will be looking for videos, but may just find a good dance list and call it good.

Strength/Flexibility: 3 days a week of core (just 10-15 minutes... any recommendations for a video?) and 2 days a week of limb strengthening (lunges, squats, weights) and stretching (these will be my dance days—so two workouts a week to shake things up)

So there... that is THAT plan...

Any of you doing new years fitness plans?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Fantabulous Holidays to All of You!!!

First, to get it out of the way, I will have the complaint portion of this blog...


2) They made me get a flu shot. Last year they made me and I did. But I kept asking what would happen if I DID NOT and nobody would answer the darn question, so this year I tested it. I did NOT get it... well today they finally answered the question... continuously escalating consequences that could end in termination. I need my job. But you all KNOW how I feel about it. If you don't, I suggest you read A Shot in the Light. So GRRRRRR.

3) My kindle charger disappeared and I need it.

4) Part of my desired gifts to give have been out of stock.

5) We have an ugly sweater day tomorrow and I am thoroughly annoyed. I have been poor way to much of my life to spend money on a sweater I will only wear MAYBE once a year for a a stupid occasion. Now had this been a thing when I was in my 20s and it was a real party with booze, I probably would have trekked myself to Goodwill for a dumb sweater. But I am middle aged with no room in my house for extra crap, a student in college and another who still needs financial help now and then. I have a Christmas colors sweater and I am calling it good enough, but if anybody calls it ugly I'm going to be pissed.

Okay, so enough of the grumbles.

In the positive...

1) Son is home from college for three weeks!

2) Starting Friday I get 11 days off!

3) Harry Potter marathon!!! (every Christmas)

4) Remember my new eating thing? Not much meat (turkey and fish is all), not much dairy... well I found ALMOND NOG!!!

5) I have great family and friends and am really ready for this reboot.

6) I thought THIS was the best idea ever: Welcome to being Santa 

Next week I plan to PLAN *BUWAHAHAHAHAHA * which is my typical mode for preparing to start the year, so I intend to be here a couple times.

But in the MEANTIME, I wish all of you amazing holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Slightly Lately Insecure… Erm…

So Hallo, fine peoples! Sorry to screech in here tardy. Life interrupted last night and the blogging thing didn’t happen. But here I am… only about 5 hours later than usual, which in some cultures is pretty much on time…

So what am I late for? Insecure Writer’s Support Group First Wednesday!!! Welcome!

Always so judgy...
The question this month is: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Well SHEESH… we all know how MY plans go… Okay, so maybe you don’t. Let me e’splain. No. Is too long. Let me sum up…

Five years ago I had just met my first deadline for a to-be-published by Penguin (Berkley Prime Crime) cozy mystery. I was flying high and sure I could leave the day job by this point in my career. But a thriving book business was also being simultaneously flooded with brand new “I can publish myself” authors.

Now I am not knocking self-publishing. Done right, many authors produce fantastic books. I still hold up Helena Soister’s The Compass Master as one of the best books I’ve ever read. And tons of people do a fine job. BUT, having tried that thing myself, I know doing it RIGHT is more work than just finding a publisher to help you. The trouble was, many people were also NOT doing it right… and sales for people began falling… and then life interfered (bloody inconsiderate sometimes, that life) and so a self-publishing year that coincided with a life pelting me upside the head year threw me off my supposed fast track. This year I’ve published ONE short story and have ONE YA book with an agent. I’ve written no full novels (though I have written a couple short stories). I am scrambling to get myself back up on the rails, but I am butt heavy so my center of gravity is off.

What was the question?
Oh right… five years… Well I hope to GET this agent (or another). I have three fairly done YA books, so if someone finally wants me and likes me, maybe I can get some help for final touches and have that YA career launched. I also have a fairly done mystery I think I am going to try with, but I don’t want to confuse things with the agent process… I know a single agent is what most want to be…

Anyway, in five years I hope to be on a traditional publishing track putting out about one YA and one Mystery a year, with an occasional thriller mixed in for good measure. I would LOVE to break out, but I’ve come to believe you can’t count on that. I just want to be back in my zone. Writing regularly, supplementing my income, getting the retirement stream flowing well enough that at least I can retire as soon as I’m eligible (nine years this month until I can access my retirement money and it is sooner than that that my age and years of service is enough for health benefits in perpetuity).

Is that a plan? Hardly. But I am scrambling here… thus my insecurity…

Anybody have a better plan?